An Internal Monologue

*another read-at-your-own-risk post :). Thanks as always, readers :). (Refer to this post for most recent polished content)

Hey. How are we, Monica?

What the f kind of title is “An Internal Monologue.” We’re SO PRETENTIOUS. SO PRETENTIOUS CAN I GO BEAT SOMETHING UP.

… (chuckle). All right. I’m banning you from using swear words in this post, and also all caps. Needs to be somewhat readable (using big words!) Also, ground rules. Italics are interrupting thoughts, bold is narrator, normal writing is the main thread. Readers: main thread is going to be pretty off-topic itself, and I don’t promise consistent characters. Here we go!

God I wish the phone would stop ringing. And yes, I know we have to use the title “internal monologue” because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough introduction to the reader. Remember how we used to write, in 9th grade? Got a C on that story, because people couldn’t understand it. A mostly dialogue-piece. Perfectly clear in my head of course—that lesson has stuck, hasn’t it?  Formatting information so that an outside reader can at least attempt to understand it. If they don’t it’s your fault. Huh. Talking about “whose fault” again. I was just talking with a friend about that, about how talking about “fault” is an upper level masking the lower feelings level. Gah, my mind is so hippie-spiritual these days, or something, no, I can’t claim hippie-spiritual, I don’t have a full grasp of that concept and I’m probably just at the edge of it. Mehhhh the “I don’t have a full grasp of that concept” thought didn’t feel like truth, that felt like something the cognitive side of my brain was making up as a hypothesis. Man, I’m rambly in my own head. How is “rambly” not a word? Microsoft Word, come on. I use that word all the time.

So—

No also before we get back on whatever track we’re doing (fine, I know what track we’re going on, it’s the one about fury), I want to state that I can’t actually beat anything up, because I don’t know how. Also for the record I don’t want to beat anything up because I’m kind of feeling that concept, but I don’t think I’d like the practicalities of it, and also that stuff (no swear words. Why isn’t there a really good substitute for the f-word? The s-word is really easy to substitute) is BAD in that it has consequences and it’s not a good high-level policy and is making the world worse. Just so we all know.

I am amused. I wasn’t expecting quite this level of off-centeredness. Why haven’t we done this before? Nah, I’m supposed to be focused. Tell me about the fury thing, since that’s what we’re talking about and what I’m here for.

So the fury thing. (Man, you know the phone ringing I mentioned earlier? That was just about loud noises. Apparently I am very irritable right now, which is interesting because I wasn’t irritable at all talking to my housemate a few minutes ago. Anyway.) So earlier—and I can tap it now if I look for it, but it’s not as salient—GAH okay there it is. It’s a pretty pleasant—that’s not the word—satisfying is closer? Satisfying sensation. (Nope, that word choice is wrong too.) It’s not anger at self, it’s anger at the world. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not anything noble like justice or anything—WHY are we putting in these caveats? Why must we always have so many caveats?—the whole point is that this fury emotion doesn’t have any caveats, it’s just mad that WHY AREN’T WE F-ING AWESOME YET. (I know you said no caps. Sorry.)

It’s like, yesterday and the day before I figured out something awesome, which is how to be a cool person. It’s been my goal to become a cool person for a long time, except I had zero clue how to do it, so it was one of those goals where I was searching for the path and not actively progressing on it. I’m not going to fully define what I mean by cool person here (because public forum! I talk about a lot of stuff but can’t talk about everything. That “stuff” was meant to be “stuff” by the way. Though I should maybe stop using “stuff” because it’s not very mature. How often do I think about writing style when I’m writing? It doesn’t seem to change most of my writing, but perhaps a lot? Huh. No conclusions, moving on.) but it’s something about being able to build on knowledge and being “naturally curious”, the latter being more important here. Anyhow, I figured out how to do it, which is actually astonishing, because I’ve been drooling over cool people for years and now have a path to do it. And normally I really like when I have paths, and know all the steps, because then I can just do all the steps and achieve the goal!

But yesterday I ran into a labmate, who already has the cool person trait, and I was so, so furious yesterday. Not at him, not at me (well, okay, kind of at me), but fairly undirected. Because he already has the cool person trait (see, see? Italics, narrator. Not caps.) (Are you serious right now?) (Totally serious, lol ;P.) and, actually, upon reflection, SO DOES almost everyone else in the lab (I appreciate the effort). And this means, instead of leveling up by becoming a cool person, I’m catching up, see, and that’s lame. LAMMMMMMMEE. (But not offensively. Is that offensive? I haven’t heard anything about “lame” being offensively but if so I don’t mean it that way, I mean “not cool” and if it is offensive please let me know and I’ll stop using it. I’m sorry!!) (…Does this actually go through our head every single time? I’m actually curious to know how many deviations of this variety occur. Also, look I’m inserted into the text! It’s really hard to do blog posts correctly because I totally make them up as I go along, with a theme in mind, which is apparently obvious to the reader as well. Or maybe I said this already in a post. Then again, how many people have read 6 years worth of posts by now. My god. We are actually in August, which makes it 6 years. I’m insane.)

Anyyyyyhow. (You’re supposed to be keeping us on track here, not impressed.) I was getting—no, I’m still getting it—something like anger / fury / rage that I AM NOT AWESOME YET, and the path to being awesome is just to work at it like a ladybug (…what) for a ton of months until I get awesome. BUT EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY (sorry) has it, so why do I have to work for it? That’s not fair!! And that’s so incredibly whiny and also stupid, because I have tons of stuff that other people have to work for, and so it’s actually so incredibly unfair in my favor. Okay, that actually made me feel better even though it was ridiculously obvious. Still. (Pout.) (Pout.) (Pout.) Nope, I’m a whiny brat. I’m just not feeling wanting to put all the work even, even though I actually do want to put all the work in.

It’s a pretty odd sensation, actually. Like, I’ve been watching sports animes while on the elliptical, and they’re getting to move around and DO things, and I’m also able to throw myself into this and get there and the process is awesome and the goal is awesome and I’m pretty darn motivated. But I want to DO something, I want to do it like all of this anime’s basketball games, I want to throw myself into it and have it be over. Have some boxed off performance time. Also, I really want to do something physical. I’ve been working out too much recently—working out is good for you to some extent, but it also turns into a waste of time at some point (gah, I feel really lame for saying that the last thing was unfair, because I’m naturally motivated to work out, and that’s something a lot of people have to try really hard for, and I’m really lucky because I just have that motivation structure naturally, and it’s so unfair and I enjoy it so much and I’m sorrrrrryyy) but I want to move around and run and… well, conceptually kick things, because I have little faith in my ability to kick things well. (Yeah, that’s the real reason. I don’t think I can kick things, and think I will look stupid doing it. Also I often think it’s stupid except in a sports context, when it can be kind of cool depending on the sport.) (So many digressions. A certain amount of these “have to” be said because I’m working in a public forum, but interesting that there’s so much top-down correction that happens regardless.)

Anyway, so sitting and thinking and doing so for an hour a day every day for the forseeable future is kind of unlike destroying the opponent in an anime basketball game. Even though the goal is awesome. And also that the goal is awesome but other people have already achieved the goal, but that one actually feels less important now when I write it up. Also, I feel like this isn’t everything, just my hypotheses for what’s going on.

Super-digression! My old therapist was of the impression that one of my main problems was anger. Specifically, that I wasn’t letting myself feel enough of it, and also that I’m going to roll over and not stand up for myself when I’m feeling it. I told him that wasn’t my problem. He insisted it was my problem, over several sessions, over and over. I told him that WASN’T MY PROBLEM, and then he congratulated me for getting angry and expressing myself, and I was like THIS ISN’T MY PROBLEM I CAN STAND UP FOR MYSELF AND I CAN GET ANGRY LET’S WORK ON MY ACTUAL PROBLEMS GAHHHHHH and he was like: you’re going very well, let’s talk more about this, and internally I have my incoherent scream of frustration.

Ha, got to use the italics! I said I would, so so there. I do try to keep things consistent with what I say in the intro, but sometimes it gets way out of hand and I need to change the intro. That’s not infrequent, actually. Ooh, “not infrequent”. I enjoy double negatives. They make me stop and think about how language and meaning is so cool. Which may be why I’m a much slower reader than people expect, because I keep on getting caught up in things like “not infrequent” and then need to sit on them for a bit and let the free-association happen before I move on.

But yes. ‘Tis life. There’s not really much else I can do, and the thing is that I’m really happy almost all of the time to have my job be a thinking job. (Oh shoot. I’M REALLY GRATEFUL FOR MY JOB, OKAY, READERS? I HAVE THE BEST JOB, I KNOW I’M REALLY LUCKY TO HAVE IT, MY JOB IS kind of a perfect fit for me, and I don’t want to do anything else and it’s absurd that it exists and I get to have it. Yes? Gratefulness accomplished? Actually that kind of helped me too. Why do I forget these things…) (Oh dear, I’m catching some of these, but how many do I not catch? MONICA? MONICA?!?) (…We can calm down now, signaling accomplished. Okay.)

It’s weird having so many parts, really. I’m really quite happy with the thinking job, but then there’s this angry part that’s like growl, let us just DO THE THING NOW, and then there’s a huge part of me that likes to cower and be hurt. Actually, the fury part’s… okay, no, I don’t want to get into the frame of mind (ooh, “frame” of “mind”! I use the word “frame” all the time, and I use “mind” in things like “mindscape” and I feel like other ways, now I’m combining them! I should probably stop doing that, I use both of those words too much already.) where I have internal parts yelling at each other, because I know where that leads and it’s very unpleasant. Note to readers: don’t have it so that internal parts are yelling at each other because then you’ll never want to introspect.

But anyway, the nice part about the fury part is that I don’t have to worry about what’s hurt. It’s my current hypothesis that pretty much everything unpleasant boils down to someone being hurt in some way, which means that to resolve anger or meanness or whatever you basically have to stop whatever is hurting them. Which is a ton of work—finding what’s hurt—and it’s making me feel weak to go around all the time to all of these parts and be like: okay, what’s going on, what’s hurting, are you okay.

I haven’t inserted myself enough here, the balance of different text-types isn’t right. Okay, carry on. 

(Really?) Okay, anyway, I’m really proud that my internal selves are forgiving and not yelling anymore (proud? Wasn’t expecting that word) (…Wait, wait, I have self-pride with regards to this self-improvement stuff? I mean, yes, I have pride over being better, but proud of myself? WHAT? You aren’t allowed to do that, Monica!)

Whoa whoa whoa sounds like a digression. We’ve got an “allowed” here, code red (lol), means there’s some mental structure here that needs to be dissected. Why aren’t we allowed to be proud of ourself? (Why isn’t ourself a word. I mean, I know, but it’s applicable here. ANYWAY. The question.) Proud of ourself for being kind to ourself? Oh my god owwww just posing the question in that way definitely gets a reaction whoaaaa wow that’s strong. [Shudder]. You know what, I don’t want to work on this right now. I’m gonna flag it to work on later—“pride in being kind to ourself” (OWWWWWW)—whoa, did NOT know that was there. Bleaeaeaea. [Shakes head]. Moving on, it’s actually kind of crazy what kind of stuff (that wasn’t meant to be a “stuff”) is in our heads. Like, I have this huge mental machinery that supports my particular formatting and bending of emotions (interesting word choice there, Monica. “Formatting of emotions”? I kind of like it though, it fits.) because it’s just so f-ing strange in there. I feel like there needs to be this immensely complex roadmap and series of checks and balances, because we have all sorts of hangups. Mine aren’t even that special, I bet a massive number of people have something similar to this one. I didn’t know it was there though! Until I briefly poked at it. Emotions are so cool. (WHOA WHOA WHOA THAT THOUGHT HAS NEVER OCCURRED TO YOU BEFORE. OH MY GOD. Let’s just sit here and fully let that percolate through the rest of your psyche. Emotions are so cool. Wow. …Wow. [Shudder]).

Ah, I forgot the topic. Topic was about how searching for the things that are hurting makes me feel weak. Also, I’m kind of constantly annoyed that I can’t be fully in control of myself 24/7, and do time-wasting weak things. And I can sort of predict when they’ll happen—like, if I start reading, I’m going to keep on reading for at least an hour—and the fact that it’s inevitable that I’m going to mess up somewhere is annoying. But then I have to be like: no, Monica, beautiful soul-person (idk, I don’t want to use my usual petnames for myself on the blog because they’re… I was going to write “equally as silly”, but my belief-reporting function just came online and told me the true answer is “because they’re mine.”), this is the wrong framework, there is not “weakness” there are just multiple selves and everyone has needs and some part of you has this need and we’ve gone over this already and the new system is much, much, better, can you feel how much better it is?

And fine, okay, I acknowledge that the new system is indeed much, much better, I actually appreciate the reminder. You’re right, whoever was just speaking, the world is much better when I don’t throw all of the weakness into one character and hate it, and instead not use the concept of weakness, but just think of myself as a system and I’m as a whole responsible for taking care of myself as a full system, where there aren’t characters so much as just me.

Ah, is this just a case of an old problem, then? The concept of “weakness” being a flag for not universal forgiveness and interest in problems? Yeah, seems a little that way. It’s interesting because I’ve been starting to keep track of what my “themes” are. I’m able to make changes to my mindscape really quickly—seriously, I’ve finally started taking the speed of my updates for granted, but it’s ridiculous. But there are themes that do come back, and I think those are the really ingrained ones, the ones where I can address some of but extend really widely through my psyche. I’ve now flagged “weakness” as one of these, though it’s gotten SO MUCH BETTER. Another one is social approval, and that one also has improved a lot. Self-anger and guilt and “supposed to” and “shoulds” I’ve been going at for ages, and again are much better. (They’ve been replaced with “wants”. Though I’ve apparently got some “alloweds” lingering around too. That doesn’t actually surprise me, these have been built up over many, many years.) The nice part is that I can feel when I’m falling into my old frameworks—there’s a particular feeling associated with them—so it’s easier to recognize and talk myself out of them. (Talk myself out of them isn’t the right term either—that’s an old frame. The term I’m using these days is “calibrate to reality”. A lot of the time my beliefs don’t actually make sense when you check out the data of my real-world experience, so if I can make my beliefs accurate to what’s actually true, this actually usually makes the problem resolve on its own. The key is not to force anything, or to force things in alignment with truth. It’s actually pretty tricky to do this right; I feel like I’m balancing on an edge sometimes. This is part of what makes it tiring; we’ll see if I can make it less tiring in the future.)

One of my friends asked me why all of this introspection is necessary for me. I told him it was fun, and made me feel good, and would help me achieve goals better. He seemed satisfied with this response. A funny thing is that I usually try to give the responses that people want to hear, but recently I’ve been instructed to give the true response rather than my hypothesized what-I-should-say response (this is pretty unconscious, by the way, but it was pretty common for me to start things with “so I’m SUPPOSED to feel…) Part of this “giving true responses” thing is that it’s hard enough for me to do (requires a lot of internal focus / awareness) that I can’t really do the “what are you thinking I’m going to say” processing very well, so I just end up saying what I mean. It’s not exactly what I mean, because it has to get through my internal review board first (“is that the right frame for this? Nope, I don’t like where that train of thought is going, new frame, oh wait I recognize that new frame as an old one we don’t like, new frame, try again…”) but it’s going through MY internal review board rather than my internal simulation of my LISTENER’S review board. (Can I just read out that sentence again? “It’s going through my internal review board rather than my internal simulation of my listener’s review board.” I can’t believe that’s a thought you’re trying to express and also that that feels right.) So it’s always a surprise when I can sort of third-person hear what comes out of my mouth, and then realize that it’s the type of response that the listener wants (because that’s totally the response that the listener wants, and I know that unconsciously and I’m sure it’s shaping it) because I just through a miniature marathon trying to make sure it passed all MY tests and then it ended up passing the listener’s test kind of as an incidental sidestep. (Wow, I’ve never thought of it this way before, but this all feels really right.) And that’s SUCH a different way of communicating for me. It feels SO INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT, and it’s still a bunch of processing, and I’m still somewhat modeling them, but I’m so much more focused on what I want to say for myself, and I still kind of get that back-end surprise, when I check what I’ve said against what I simulate the other person wants to hear, and think: oh.

Oh, other related point: “people pleaser”. Hate that concept. Hate hate hate go die. Also, I’m aware that you’re not allowed to have strong feelings for something because it means something’s not calibrated and there’s an issue. Which is definitely true for this case. Man, it’s kind of hard to be equanimous (oh my god, that IS A WORD, Microsoft!) all the time about everything, but that does seem to be the state when you have no issues. (Also, I said the word “allowed”, which is also not “allowed” if we’re aiming for the “you have no problems” state. These are just a few examples of the mental checks things have to pass through and why I call it a mini-marathon. Good things happen at the end though! You end up with much calmer thoughts– hm, I guess it’s still very busy, the thoughts, but there is less emotional flailing.)

But anyway, there are definitely lots of “people-pleaser” tendencies though I don’t like that concept because it feels weak and whiny and subservient and those are definitely all strong words, which means I’m totally benching this to look into later. (When you can get strong words to come up, that’s a good sign, because that’s when you often get surprised. Going in and saying how a thing makes you feel, and then examining from an outside perspective what words come out, is really informative.)

Regardless, the original point was on how the fury was somewhat related to not being strong already (new word there) and being frustrated with not being able to work all the time and immediately make the thing I’m considering not-awesome and weak go away. That’s actually a new reframing. Feels more right. You also notice you’re not angry anymore, even though you liked the anger because it didn’t mean you have to think about hurt? God I hate when things feel better when you go through the mechanisms. I feel like I’m being tricked into feeling better, which annoys me, and yes that annoyance can be looked into but I know the surface-level thing it traces back to. (Deep breath). All right, new frame, let’s not be annoyed at success here, or at least tag that for later since it’s really a deeper issue :). (It’s actually interesting that some frames of mind make it much much easier to make progress than others. “Resistance” is the therapy term, and one of the reasons why I keep tagging things is that once you work through all of the tagged things, a whole bunch of other blocks just kind of disappear. It seems like blocks are pretty related to each other, and if you fix the blocks that come up in daily thinking, those are the ones that are commonly in use so fixing them percolates down the chain of lesser issues. That’s my hypothesis, anyway, and it feels like there’s some truth to it.) (So much “feeling like there’s truth” these days. I feel like I’m much more reliant on intuition, and “I feel like” means something besides a nice substitute for “I think” when I’ve used that too many times. Intuition knows stuff though! Intuition actually has a lot of thinking content, that’s one of the really big concepts here.)

So I’m not going to work through the fury thing here (there’s a lot more underneath it, and we’re going to get into the weakness vein, will probably take at least a half an hour and I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a few, possibly more spread out over weeks depending on how stubborn this one is.) (Well, depending on if the angle I go at it is a good one or not. Whatever I replace it with has to feel true. Luckily, a new frame I’m using is that there are many varieties of truth—different people’s or perspectives’ truths can all be true at the same time—so I’ll find one!)

I’m going to finish up here soon, so I wanted to put in an unrelated thought: you know how I volunteer at San Quentin’s prison to teach math? The guys have a podcast called “Ear Hustle”. It’s really great. The guy who I tutor is in one of the episodes, and listening to him has me thinking and feeling a lot. I know this guy from a first-person perspective, and I know what he thinks of me, and now hearing him from a third-person perspective… it’s fascinating, and makes me feel sad and curious and alive.

Another thing that I’ve been discussing with one of my friends is the social justice movement, because I was reading a thread on Facebook from some of my Wellesley alums that I couldn’t figure out how to feel about. Real life is really confusing, especially when the real world has actual problems. I don’t know what to think or do, and still don’t.

So, for another night—recently, I’ve been thinking about things when wandering around with a bike at midnight (I love where I live; it’s really safe. Also I walk up the hills, so that I can bike down really quickly when I’m done), and another night I was laying in a lawn chair staring up at the sky (too foggy for stars) listening to cars going by. The house I live is really quiet, too, so there’s a lot of space and time to think if I have the inclination.

But next week adventures begin again! I’ll be heading off to Massachusetts to attend the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines summer institute (gah, I feel like official stuff has no place given how much rambling has previously taken place here—different style. I probably should have put the prison thing in another post too—maybe I’ll do that as well, since I’m just feeling a lot about it. I’m not allowed to write much about my experience though on a public forum, though, is the problem, but we’ll see how much I can talk about my own thoughts without involving anyone else.) I’ll be gone for three weeks, and by the time I get back I’ll already have missed the first 2 weeks of school, so I’ll be hitting the ground running. End of summer, guys. It’s been a long and beautiful one :).

Yay for making it through, and until next time!

Monica

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